Walden has been a proud B Corp since 2017. This designation is for “businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.” At Walden, we endeavor to be pioneers in sustainable agriculture, providing our members with the highest quality, locally sourced food.
The “local” part of our name isn’t just a nod to our focus on nearby sourcing; it’s a directive we follow to intentionally build, grow, and strengthen the communities we serve. As a public benefit corporation, our mandate is to “Make Local Work.” More specifically, we:
- connect adjacent rural and urban communities to reinvigorate sustainable local agricultural systems;
- produce the healthiest products possible with industry-leading standards of animal welfare and environmental sustainability; and
- create incentives for farmers to move to more regenerative practices, including those that are not simply “do less harm,” but that provide a net positive benefit to the environment and surrounding communities.
It is very important to us that we report on both our accomplishments in 2020, as well as where we need to improve. Below, we’ve detailed a brief summary of these efforts, but our full annual report can be found on our website.
2020 was a challenging year for many communities and businesses around the country. As the pandemic raged and local fisheries raced to find solutions for bringing their catch to a market now devoid of restaurants, Walden stepped in to offer an outlet for selling the fish directly through our share program. We were even able to hire several of our partner’s employees to help with the increased workload, and have continued to build on these partnerships into 2021. Thanks to quick thinking and a willingness to take action, our team has remained strong, safe, and healthy as we grow and care for our communities.
In order to best serve our members and team, Walden insists on maintaining industry-leading standards of animal welfare and environmental sustainability. Our practices include quarterly audits of 100% of our partner farms and facilities, required rotational grazing to promote both animal and soil health, QR code-tracked traceability for fish, zero harmful fungicides or pesticides, and numerous other criteria that we carefully monitor in all suppliers.
Walden does not require exclusivity from our partners, which allows for a more diverse financial position for local farms, and an increase in the overall presence of top-quality meat in the larger market. Our mission is to promote sustainable farming practices across all categories, including processing and packaging facilities such as our partner plant in Vermont. In 2020 we became co-owners of this independent operation, where we now have greater control of our products from the pasture on the farm all the way to our members’ doors.
To further expand our reach in driving the meat industry toward greater long-term sustainability, Walden has elected to help our partners move to more regenerative practices through incentives that have an exponential impact on the financial future of farming. As a significant buyer of grass-fed beef and pasture-raised meat in the region, we are increasingly setting the market standard for quality and driving premiums paid to farmers. We believe the best methods produce the best products. This is why, in 2020 and across all proteins, we paid a 252% premium to commodity pricing to our partners.
But there’s still work to do. We’d like to continue to find ways to make our resources go further — such as by reducing our use of plastic wrap or recycling our wooden pallets. We’d like to continue to hire with a focus on diversity so that our workforce doesn’t just accurately reflect our community, but benefits it equally. We’d like our employee wages to continue to outpace minimum wage, and we want to see our employee benefits keep expanding.
As a local, sustainability-driven, and proud B Corp, Walden’s commitment to growing with and within our communities remains steadfast as we plan for the future. As our membership expands and our name becomes increasingly synonymous with quality and trust, we feel our responsibility also grows and creates the momentum we need to continue our hard work. We are incredibly passionate about the regional food system all of our members are helping us build and we hope you will join us for the long haul as we endeavor to create a company that’s built to last.
There is always room for improvement and innovation, and here at Walden we look forward to the world we want to help build — a planet that’s better off tomorrow than it is today.
—All of us at Walden